Michael Myagkov decided to adapt international experience of preparation for standardized examinations to the situation in Russia. Leaving his job as vice-president of the company Kaplan, he returned to Russia, where in 2012 the active installation of the USE was just commencing. Myagkov knew exactly how to set up a system of preparation for standard examinations, so he set about implementing this idea. He was not discouraged by the initial refusals from investors, and his enthusiasm and conviction that he would succeed helped him to attract his first funds.
In the spring of 2013, the MAXIMUM courses of preparation for the USE and MSE appeared. In the pre-examination period, the first 100 pupils took them successfully. The positive reactions from the pupils and their teachers and parents, and in particular the high marks achieved by the children in taking the USE, helped his cause still more.
“We started up when the environment was right for our company, i.e. when the USE appeared in Russia. Given the existence of such an examination, our company was able to offer a high-quality product. We had invested all the necessary resources in it, developed the technology base and selected teachers of a high standard. We could then grow by adapting to other specialities and other regions of the country”, says Myagkov.
Following the founder, the prospective students came to believe in it too: in the following year, 2600 people underwent instruction in the company, the year after that 7000, and by May 2016 it is planned to bring this number up to 30,000.
After such a successful start to its activities, serious investment funds started taking an interest in MAXIMIM, including Siguler & Goff, based in New York. With their support, the startup has now begun a new project: to prepare Russian school pupils for TOEFL, IELTS and other foreign examinations, jointly with the company Kaplan.
The MAXIMUM teaching programmes are divided into three categories.
The first consists of offline courses in Moscow and other major cities of Russia. In this case, the company throws down a challenge to the existing stereotypes and changes the concept of preparing for examinations which had come to exist in Russia.
Up to then, there had been one-to-one classes with a tutor, who was judged by how long he had been involved in teaching – the longer the better. In MAXIMUM, the system is constructed differently. Parents gain access online to the educational system of courses, due to which the teaching programme becomes more transparent: one may look at the child’s level of knowledge, the number of times the site has been visited, and other information.
The second category of courses is remote teaching for pupils all over the country. It is based on a system similar to the offline classes, but instead of being together in classes, the school pupils are connected to webinars.
The third format consists of small programmes on individual subjects, and consists only of video recordings, lessons and tests.
“We consider our continuous development to be our main advantage. We draw conclusions from the results of each lesson and use the most successful approaches in the next course. No tutor could develop so actively. But we combine the best practices of on- and offline to achieve ideal teaching quality”, says Michael.
A special approach to the selection of teachers helps to achieve this effect. In MAXIMUM, they are mainly 25-year-old graduates of the best colleges in the country, who know from their own experience what the USE is, and have gained high marks in it. Of the 2500 applicants for this work, 72 were selected. And before they started teaching, they took special courses for teachers, and learned all the secrets of the specific format of work in MAXIMUM.
“We have created an ideal system for successful preparations in examinations, and one which is quite accessible in terms of price: We only charge half as much as the average payment for the services of a tutor, and classes in offline groups cost only half of that,” sums up Myagkov. “Furthermore, we guarantee the quality of our teaching, which is always improving. Where else will you find such an offer?”
Read an interview with Leon Zilber, an investor in the startup MAXIMUM.